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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 September 2007, 00:29 GMT 01:29 UK
Rabies 'could be gone in decade'
Rabid dog (Pic: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)
Infected dogs are the most common cause of human infection
Rabies could be wiped out across the world within a decade if sufficient vaccination programmes are carried out on domestic dogs, according to experts.

Edinburgh University's Royal Dick Vet School staff have carried out extensive research into the disease, which kills about 55,000 people per year.

If enough domestic dogs are vaccinated, worldwide the disease cycle could be broken leaving no threat to humans.

They hope village-based campaigns could reach 70% of the dog population.

The first World Rabies Day took place on Friday.

Children are most at risk of being bitten by a rabid animal and in sub-Saharan Africa it can cost 40% of an annual income to pay for post-exposure vaccination and hospital visits
Sarah Cleaveland
Edinburgh University

Edinburgh University staff are working with vaccine manufacturer Intervet on a programme to eradicate the disease in the Serengeti region of east Africa.

This follows work by the university which found all animals infected with rabies there had a variant of the disease that originated from the domestic dog.

Staff at the university's vet school have also been involved in setting up the Alliance for Rabies Control, a Scottish-based charity established to combat the disease.

They claim that in areas where there is a high prevalence of the disease, such as Africa and Asia, the need for vaccination schemes has often been overlooked, despite the fact this would cost less than other healthcare programmes.

Hospital visits

Vet school staff member Sarah Cleaveland, one of the alliance's board members, said: "Very few people in Western Europe will ever die from rabies, but for those affected in developing countries it can cause immeasurable suffering.

"Children are most at risk of being bitten by a rabid animal and in sub-Saharan Africa it can cost 40% of an annual income to pay for post-exposure vaccination and hospital visits.

"It's estimated that in Africa and Asia almost eight million people a year receive costly post-exposure prophylaxis, yet the cost to eradicate rabies is comparatively small compared to other healthcare programmes."

More than 45 countries across the world are holding events throughout September to raise awareness of the need to control the spread of the disease.


SEE ALSO
Rabies fear for bat bitten teen
24 Jul 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Rabid bat discovered in UK town
28 Sep 04 |  Health
Study rules out bat rabies threat
20 Feb 04 |  Scotland

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